Nick Nikolsky, Exodus' Kilimanjaro Product Manager recently visited Tanzania, he explains more about this years (2010) classes.
Anybody who has climbed Mt Kilimanjaro (or any mountain requiring a support team) will know that success or failure depends not just on your own efforts, but that of the team with you. With the right staff to assist you with your climb your chances of reaching the summit dramatically improve.
Exodus strongly believe in furthering the skills and knowledge of our staff, and that by running regular training for our staff members, each can progress up the career ladder. And so it was that I found myself on a balcony of the hotel we use in Marangu, pointing to my arm saying "my arm" then pointing to the arm of one of our porters saying "your arm"! Despite having been an English teacher in the distant past and speaking basic Kiswahili, I could still not get the concept of mine and yours over without a lot of pointing and explanations!
I should add that I was only visiting our classes for a couple of days and this was the basic beginners English class for our porters - the advanced classes were significantly above this level of understanding. Our classes are taught by qualified local Tanzanian teachers, some of whom also work for us as trekking guides.
As was the case in previous years, our 2010 English classes were held in Arusha, Magangu and Tarakea in order to minimise the distance students needed to travel to attend classes. It was refreshing to see that among the mostly male make-up of the classes in both Tarakea and Marangu, we had 5 ladies who are regular porters on the mountain. A lot of these porters can now converse fairly fluently in English, having attended our classes for a number of years now.
In our more advanced classes, the students were learning the names of animals, insects and birds that are found on the mountain, as well as information on the routes we use, with everything from altitude to walking distances. This enables them to talk with passengers and to impart useful information about the mountain, a role that our guides are used to undertaking as part of their job.
During my visit I had a meeting with the Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project (KPAP). They are a local NGO set up to provide recommended porter guidelines, which our local partners in Tanzania and Exodus here in the UK have signed up to and are happy to adhere to. We work closely with our local partners to ensure that we are at the forefront of offering responsible and fair working conditions to all our staff, which includes paying a fair wage and providing suitable equipment whilst on the mountain. We undertake regular monitoring of client and staff feedback, to see where we can make further improvements. During the language classes we gave all the porters a chance to ask questions or make suggestions for further improvements, a number of which are already being implemented.
Anyone climbing the mountain can do so in the knowledge that they are in good hands and should bear in mind the Kiswahili proverb haraka haraka haina baraka which I would translate as "slowly and steady wins the race", although its worth bearing in mind the mountain is definitely not a race!
Watch the Tanzania Porter School video
Porter Profile: Adam Godson Lauwo
Adam Godson Lauwo who lives in the village of Marangu, Northern Tanzania is 26 years old and is one of 12 children. Marangu is a village that is overlooked by the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro and Adam and many of his friends in the village earn a living acting as porters for Exodus clients in their quest to climb Africa’s highest peak. Adam has the mountain in his blood. His Great Great Grandfather Yohani Kinyala Lauwo was the first Tanzanian to scale Kilimanjaro, accompanying Hans Meyer, the first Westerner to reach Uhuru Peak in 1889. It obviously did him no harm, as it was not until 1996 that he died at the ripe old age of 125.
In 2004 Exodus set up the Porter Education Project to assist the porters to learn new skills both professionally and personally. The Porter School takes place every year during the rainy season when there is no trekking on the mountain. Subjects taught are English (at various levels), AIDS education, personal money management and man management. Adam is a successful graduate of the project as his subsequent improvement in English has enabled him to move up the ranks from Porter to Summit Porter to Assistant Guide. He has also learned valuable skills to assist him in his everyday personal life and his increased income has enabled him to assist two of his younger sisters in their schooling costs. Inspired by his educational successes Adam is using his wages and tips to fund himself onto a computer course next rainy season and he is also keen to improve his basic French to enable him to guide French groups too.
Our Kili Porter Education Project has been in full swing over the last 8 weeks as the rains have been falling in East Africa.
Over 180 of our porters have received 8-weeks of intensive English language training. Some have taken beginners classes, while others have been working on their 'advanced' English and hope to get the opportunity to improve their conversational skills on the mountain as the rains cease and our trips re-commence in late June.
These advanced students have now acquired some of the skills that will enable them to progress through the ranks on the mountain to assisting porters or cooks, or even assistant guides next year.
The porter's school finished last week and there were excellent presentations, on both Kilimanjaro history and routes, and general thanks to Exodus for their assistance in making the project possible.
The courses were taught by a mix of our senior guides, Obote, Justin, Meke and Gerard (the latter 2 are qualified teachers before becoming Kili guides), and a local teacher called Severin. The courses all ran for 8 weeks, two hours daily, through an exceptionally wet, rainy season and have clearly benefitted the students.
Some of those graduating out of the advanced course have begun the progression up to assistant guide, and ultimately hopefully to Chief Guide. Whilst others came in at the beginner course and these included 3 new female porters, a rarity on Kilimanjaro.
Overall 142 students graduated from the course, with another 40 attending at times, but due to personal circumstances their attendance was not consistent enough to graduate.
Next year we hope to enhance the course by having lots of English dictionary's and simple English grammar books for the students to take home and do homework. The porters who participated in the project look forward in praticising their new English skills with exodus clients in the coming months during Kilimanjaro climbs.
This training would not be possible without the valued continued support of our clients, our experienced guides in teaching the classes locally or the kind local businesses who have donated rooms at their hotels for training or equipment for tuition.
Thank you all for your generous support
From the Exodus operations team - Kilimanjaro.
The Project is going ahead this year with a similar program to last year.
8 weeks of classes are planned from March 24th to May 18th, with 3 classes (beginners, intermediate and advanced) in each location (Tarakea, Marangu, Arusha). We are estimating to have around 20 porters in each class, giving a total of 180 porters recieving language training in 2008.
2007 marked the third year of this project and the aims set in 2006 of enlarging the project by offering classes at three levels (Advanced, Intermediate and Beginners) was achieved. Nine classes, three at each location, were held for 8 weeks from March until May. The teaching concentrated on the students learning English, but was supplemented by sessions on ‘HIV / AIDS awareness’ and ‘money management’. With the expansion of the program in 2007 a total of 162 students attended the classes (the 2006 total was 133 students).
There remains widespread enthusiasm for this project. It is successful because an ability to speak English gives the porters the most crucial skill necessary to work in tourism. Being able to communicate with tourists means the porters have a chance for career progression, rising up through the ranks to cooks or assistant guides and ultimately chief guides.
On the final days of this years training, Richard Marsden of The African Walking Company, traveled to the classes and heard presentations from the students. The one in Marangu was particularly memorable as the students had organized a debate to demonstrate their English skills. The debate was on the proposal that the Rongai Route of Kilimanjaro is better than the Shira Route. An advanced class student, Lasti Minja chaired the debate, whilst other students formed the groups that supported and opposed the proposal. The remaining students formed the audience who participated from the floor by giving their own reasons for liking a particular route. The debate was very enjoyable and it was good to see that even students from the beginner’s course were happy to try out their English.
The Tanzania Porter Education Project has now run for three years and its dream of educating porters, giving them a chance of a better life and becoming guides is being fulfilled. Many of the porters in this project now have regular contact with tourists on Kilimanjaro, whether they are helping to serve the food in the mess tent, giving bed tea in the morning, working as a summit porter (an extra guide on summit day) or having the chance to talk with tourists in the camps. This in itself improves their English and continues the aims of the project.
For Evance Constantine of Tarakea and Edward Mboya of Marangu, three years of studying in this project and a lot of hard work on Kilimanjaro has seen them obtain the necessary the skills to progress and they have both been appointed to the role of assistant guide for the forthcoming season. Congratulations.
Evance Constantine was born in 1979 in Tarakea on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. He is the oldest of eight children and attended school until the second year of secondary school when his family’s lack of financial resources meant he could not be supported through school. In 2000, Evance found work as a porter on Kilimanjaro. In 2005 he had the chance to go to the summit for the first time, and last year he went regularly to the summit with Justin Sianga’s guide team. Evance comments ‘the combination of Exodus and African Walking Company is good for us as it has helped with our education in English language and given me the chance to become a guide, thankyou for my 3 years in the Porter Education Project’.
Edward Mboya is from Marangu and finished his schooling at the end of primary, a common occurrence in Tanzania where many people are poor and live by subsistence farming supplemented with cash from occasional manual work. He is the youngest of six children and his favourite food is the Marangu speciality called macharali (stewed bananas and beef). At 29 years of age Edward has worked on Kilimanjaro for over 10 years and has already climbed to the summit over 30 times. Edward states ‘thanks to The Tanzania Porter Education Project as it gives us greater respect for ourselves and a chance we would otherwise not have to make our lives better.’
Everyone at The African Walking Company thanks Exodus and its many clients for their kind support of The Tanzania Porter Education Project. We hope that you will continue to donate and enable the project to run in future years.
In 2006 a total of 133 students attended the full course in six different classes (two levels at each location). This also included a session on HIV/AIDS awareness, as this is a problem in Tanzania. A handful of porters were promoted in June 2006; for the others, the learning process will continue, and for all of them, the language proficiency will be useful in other aspects of their lives.
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